Friday, 27 April 2018

The vital importance of having a medium-to-long-term reviews strategy

It seems obvious, doesn't it? After all, nearly all our business planning takes account of our medium-to-long-term objectives. But, for reasons we will examine in this article, all those sensible plans can fly right out of the window when it comes to reviews.

What happens?

So often we come across businesses that have a pre-existing reviews strategy that is broken in some way - already - and takes very little account of what may happen in the future. 

Broken?

Strategies can be 'broken' in so many ways; the most common being non-compliance with the UK Competition & Markets Authority's regulations. There is one way in which the UK leads in new media and that is in its regulation of the world of reviews. 




Why would a reviews site be non-compliant? It surprises us too and the conclusion we have come to is twofold: either the reviews site is based outside the UK and is unaware that it is in breach of UK regulations or it is aware (being UK or overseas based) and is flouting those regulations as a matter of commercial necessity and hoping the CMA will either not notice or somehow modify its regulations to allow their practices to continue.

Commercial necessity? Reviews sites were in business long before Google got into reviews. As Google has become more and more dominant in the reviews arena the reviews sites have been backed into a corner - their core offering: displaying reviews in search, simply cannot compete with Google - so they now offer businesses 'advantages' that Google doesn't. Unfortunately for the reviews sites - and their business customers - both the most superficially attractive 'advantages' being offered are non-compliant...

  • closing their sites to everyone except those expressly invited by the business
  • allowing paying businesses to manipulate their moderation mechanisms to deter negative reviews

Both these contravene the CMA's core regulations relating to reviews. You can read about them in detail here, but in a nutshell they state that any reviews solution must allow any customer to write a review at a time of their choosing.

And why are these strategies broken?

There are many factors at play here...
  • Pressure from competitors: how often do we hear businesses say "We had to adopt [name of reviews site] because [name of competitor] was making us look bad by comparison."
  • The reviews sites' own sales tactics: many of the reviews sites have significant financial backing and large sales-forces, and those salespeople have targets to meet. The advent of Google made the sale significantly harder (we would say 'impossible') and so some have resorted to over-selling (you only have to look at what their sales staff are saying about them on sites like Glassdoor and Indeed and even their own competitor reviews sites to understand that).


  One reviews site's fifty-nine reviews on another reviews site...


...and that site's four hundred reviews on another. Whatever is happening here, it does not reflect well on any of the reviews sites concerned

  • Unintentionally misguided advice from professional advisers: we see this so often - the business's web designer/PR/advertising agency has recommended the reviews site. Almost always there was no intent to mislead, it is simply born out of a misunderstanding of the complex issues at play in the world of reviews - and not realising that there is a better way.

The upshot...




 An example (left) of a business that has invested heavily, in every way, in the wrong reviews solution and the impact on their image in Google reviews (right). No prizes for guessing our advice: they need to bite the bullet and refocus their review management efforts.


We see businesses every day that have committed time, money and energy in getting reviews to the wrong place. They are understandably reluctant to write off all of that, but that is exactly what they need to do. They need to implement a strategy that...
  1. Gives them ownership of their own reviews; this enables them to display them on their own website and then get them across to whatever external site will be most effective in the long term (Google - unsurprisingly - for almost every business on the planet, but any other site that matters in the future as well)
  2. Get reviews to Google - where else can compete in 2018, and where else is likely to compete in the foreseeable future?
  3. Get those reviews to Google safely by adopting a mechanism that allows them to manage potentially misleading or factually inaccurate reviews pre-publication, without allowing the business to deflect honestly held negative comments
  4. Has the flexibility to adapt to changes in the reviews market - by getting reviews to external sites that do matter - Facebook, for instance
...and that's a review management solution.


The proof of the pudding... 

If you - be you a business or an adviser - look at any HelpHound client, they have long-term review management strategies in place: they look great on their own websites...





...and great on Google...



...and great on any other sites that matter...




...but most important of all, they have adopted a strategy - and a legally compliant strategy at that - that will serve their business and their customers in the long term.

Further reading...

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